Krugman: Why Is Scalia's Death Bringing America Close to a Constitutional Crisis?

"Once upon a time, the death of a Supreme Court justice wouldn’t have brought America to the edge of constitutional crisis," Paul Krugman writes in his latest NYT column. "But that was a different country, with a very different Republican Party. In today’s America, with today’s G.O.P., the passing of Antonin Scalia has opened the doors to chaos."
Krugman delves into the why:
At one level the answer is the ever-widening partisan divide. Polarization has measurably increased in every aspect of American politics, from congressional voting to public opinion, with an especially dramatic rise in“negative partisanship” — distrust of and disdain for the other side. And the Supreme Court is no different. As recently as the 1970s the court had several “swing” members, whose votes weren’t always predictable from partisan positions, but that center now consists only of Mr. Kennedy, and only some of the time.
But simply pointing to rising partisanship as the source of our crisis, while not exactly wrong, can be deeply misleading. First, decrying partisanship can make it seem as if we’re just talking about bad manners, when we’re really looking at huge differences on substance. Second, it’s really important not to engage in false symmetry: only one of our two major political parties has gone off the deep end. ...
Beyond that, there are huge differences in tactics and attitudes. Democrats never tried to extort concessions by threatening to cut off U.S. borrowing and create a financial crisis; Republicans did. Democrats don’t routinely deny the legitimacy of presidents from the other party; Republicans did it to both Bill Clinton and Mr. Obama. The G.O.P.’s new Supreme Court blockade is, fundamentally, in a direct line of descent from the days when Republicans used to call Mr. Clinton “your president.”
Krugman warns that it's going to be hard to overcome this -- the Republicans seem to be getting worse, not better, and there's no organized popular movement to help overcome our problems: "If divided government persists," Krugman writes, "it’s really hard to see how we avoid growing chaos."

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